Look back at the year

England – 1720

Oh my, what a year! It maketh one thinke! How will we ever get over this? 

I’m sure it won’t happen in the future, but why does everyone in England want to make money with such rapaciousness and voracity?

This year, there is only one topic on the minds of all our citizens. ‘Tis this very year, in return for a loan of £7,000,000 to finance the war against those pesky French, our House of Lords passed the South Sea Bill, which allowed the South Sea Company a monopoly in trade with South America. Slaves and stuff, which is of course fine. But it doesn’t end there. Unfortunately.

The company also underwrote our National Debt, which stands at an incredible £30,000,000 million, give or take a farthing or two, on a promise of 5% interest from the Government.

Shares immediately rose to 10 times their value, there was much speculating, and some completely lunatic companies were launched amidst all the financial chaos. 

I give thee three examples; a company floated to manufacture a gun which would fire square cannon balls; another one to buy the Irish Bogs; and one, wait for it, “For carrying-on an undertaking of great advantage but no-one is to know what ‘tis!!” This last one raised thousands of pounds. You couldn’t make this up……

Of course, the inevitable has happened. Huge fortunes were made, but eventually, huge fortunes were also lost as people all over the country became destitute, almost overnight. They included the gentry as well as those who literally couldn’t afford to invest, let alone lose what they did not possess……No wonder suicides have sadly became a daily occurrence. 

On a cultural note, as a music lover, my major disappointment this year has been that it has not been possible to see and hear that virtuoso violinist Vivaldi. Instead of visiting our fair isle, he’s decided to tour around Europe instead. Heathen. It means I have to put up with more bloody Handel instead. Lucky man was our George Frideric – he invested in South Sea in 1716 and sold last year! Why doth he not return to Brandenburg-Prussia?

But 1720 has had an upside as well.  Word has reached me from that infernal pestilence of a country we know as France that such is their increasing rural prosperity, that even the peasants are drinking wine daily! Hard to believe, and no wonder we are at war with them. 

However, they have discovered a very handy way of reducing their production costs. Instead of beating the grapes with sticks or battoons, they cleverly now use little children, who spend all day and half the night in the Tubs, treading the grapes under their feet. Genius. That will keep the little brats out of trouble. All we do in England is send them up chimney stacks to clear the soot away. Progress, I think you will agree.

So, a tumultuous year comes to an end, a year of such unhappiness, and personal deprivation for so many; it is only goode that my country cannot possibly ever experience such a year again, even if we dare look hundreds of years into the future. 

Roger Bara

I wish you all a more prosperous and less volatile 1721. 

I have been asked to remark upon the current events around here, in The Year of Our Lord twenty and eighteen-hundred. It’s been a remarkable year, they ain’t been barely a week goes by what something happened. 

I shall start at the most important: The Presidential Elections was between November 1, and December 6 and James Monroe got a second term in office with a considerable landslide victory in the Electoral College. The President defeated John Quincy Adams by a tally of 231 to 1. None of us liked Adams no how – cabbage head.

Oh… There is more news: To prove that a tomato ain’t poisonous, Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson ate one in public in Salem, New Jersey. Far as anybody around here knows, he is still alive. No matter, you will not be catching me eating one of them damn things.

I am reminded of Mr. Abraham Hatchel. He ate a tomato last year and the next day, he was on his way into town when he fell off his horse and died. Hear tell he was dead before he even hit the ground. I do not know how much more proof a body needs.

This week’s Postal Rider brought the Newspaper and it turns out that on December 20, Missouri imposed a $1 bachelor tax on unmarried men aged between 21 & 50. It seems sensible enough to me. They probably should have called it the I’m ugly tax.

I suppose you already know this but earlier in the year The Missouri Compromise bill, sponsored by Henry Clay, passed in the Congress. That legislation allows slavery in the Missouri territory, but not in any other location west of the Mississippi River that was north of 36 degrees 30 minutes latitude. That clears the way for the territory to be admitted to the Union, maybe next year.

The local Southern Baptist here became most exercised over the entire affair. It seems Preacher Matthews says God ordained indenturement and even quoted the Bible. The Good Book says that it is acceptable to keep people as long as they be from another state.  And Precher said that meant another country. So keeping Africans is as God intended, the Bible says so.

He then goes on to say Greek philosopher Aristotle claimed that some people were slaves by nature, and as a result of this belief, Aristotle argued that their enslavement was the only way to serve their best interests.

If you consider it, it’s probably so. These poor creatures would not even have clothing to cover their neckedness. After the current fashion, they have not only clothing but they got houses and food. I figure it is better than they could achieve by other means.

There’s other news, but I figure you would find the story of Mr. Jackob’s corn crop a bit trifling. 

Humbly Yours,

Mr. Lewis

Photograph of Dean Lewis

1920 in Russia… in its brightest moments

On February 6 Admiral Alexander Kolchak, recognized since 1918 by the White movement as the ‘Supreme Leader and Commander-in-Chief of all Russian Land and Sea Forces’, is executed by Bolshevik’s firing squad… Immediately after his body was dumped down the ice of the frozen Angara river…  

This news effectively puts an end to the White movement, already on defense in all directions across the country with South of Russia and the Far East being the last strongholds. Kolchak was a man of honor and integrity, a very good Navy officer and a fearless Arctic explorer, a passionate patriot of Russia but, at the same time, a person with very poor communication skills and an inept administrator. He obviously failed to unite the White movement and, thus, beat the Bolsheviks. He, in my mind, to the great bad luck of Russia, was an antipode of Leo Trotsky, a very charismatic speaker, the man who has built the Red army from scratch, the one who could fire up people to fight for the Soviets. The Bolshevik press calls Trotsky ‘The Trooper of the Revolution’.   

The worldwide ‘Spanish flu’ or the Influenza pandemic is coming to an and. Since 1918 this horrific disease has taken lives of up to 100 million people around the planet, according to some estimates. The number of its victims well exceeds the number of the MIA in the World War One, even taking into account the most conservative estimate of ‘just’ 17 million lost lives… Russia, already torn apart by the Civil war, has suffered a lot, too. Thanks God, at least one devilish thing has vanished here. 

Japan occupies the island of Sakhalin, from now on called Karafuto but at the same time its dreams of annexing the whole of the Russian Far East denied by US President Woodrow Wilson. 

Inessa Armand, a Frenchwoman and Vladimir Lenin’s long-time lover and unofficial wife, dies from cholera. According to some reviews, Lenin is deeply shocked by her death.  

The Soviet-Polish war that has begun last year, has finally, as it seems, comes to an end. The Soviet Russia and Poland sign a truce agreement drawing the ‘Kurzon Line’ as the new border between the two countries. It seems that Lenin and Trotsky’s plans of creating a Soviet Poland are now destroyed. 

We now see the Bolsheviks finally taking upper hand in the Civil war with the seizure of the Crimea, the last stronghold of the White movement. General Wrangel and the White Guard leaving the country aboard ships and vessels of every possible kind bound for Istanbul. Thousands and thousands of warriors against the Reds, plus their families, plus lots of civilians who don’t imagine themselves in the Soviet Russia, under Lenin and Trotsky’s rule. All now turning into refugees with Russian Imperial navy ships transporting them to a foreign land… For good? So many of them hope, with General Wrangel first, now the leader of the White movement, it would be just a matter of time when, with the help of the Entente powers, when they back and wipe out the Bolsheviks, once and for all. But who knows what lies ahead? 

Soon after the defeat of General Wrangel in Crimea, just before the New Year, on December 30, Soviet Russia opens its trade offices in Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, Turkey, Italy and some other countries. This effectively means that business prevails over politics even when it comes to dealing with Communist Russia.